In the News: Shop Smart, Shop Safe

With the holidays approaching many people are starting their shopping. Next week comes one of the busiest shopping days of the year: Black Friday. Plus pre-Thanksgiving sales, Cyber Monday, and all the other holiday sales make this time of year a little hectic when it comes to finding the perfect gift. With some of the economic challenges people are facing this year, finding the best bang for the buck is even more important. So take a break and check out the history behind Black Friday and some tips and tricks you can use to find the best deals and to keep yourself safe as you shop for your loved ones this year.

NEW! Why is it called Black Friday?

Black Friday got its name originally because of the car accidents and violence that took place as the crowds rushed for the sales. Stores didn’t want the day associated with something so negative so they changed it to represent the way the sales would help get them back in the “black” financially speaking.

The History of Black Friday (find it on the ipl2)

Find out more about Black Friday on this site devoted to the day and everything surrounding it. Learn more about when it started, who coined the phrase, and why it’s become something shoppers look forward to almost as much as Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Personal Safety Plan for Black Friday (find it on the ipl2)

The National Crime Prevention Center offers tips to keep you safe if you go out to face the crowds on Black Friday. These ideas will help you make a plan ahead of time and keep you, your money, and others around you safe. Remembering to take your time, not carry more than you can, and being aware of your surroundings are just a few of the tips offered to make your shopping more enjoyable and less stressful.

Black Friday Ads and Shopping (find it on the ipl2)

This site gathers all the sales and information you need to make your strategy for Black Friday shopping. Browse the ads ahead of time, find out special shopping times, and learn any restrictions you need to know before you head out the door.

Tips: Safe Online Shopping (find it on the ipl2)

Because of the crowds and the craziness you might prefer to shop from the comfort of your home. This site offers practical advice and tips on how to protect yourself as you shop. Valuable suggestions on how to tell if a website is secure to shop on and reminders to trust your instincts are just a couple of the tips that can help you have a safe and enjoyable shopping experience, even on the web.

Cyber Monday Ads and Shopping NEW!

With the advent of online shopping, stores decided to get in on the shopping frenzy of Black Friday and extend special deals that would be available only online on the Monday after Thanksgiving. This site will give you tips on all of the deals to watch for on Cyber Monday. Plus they offer the inside scoop on online deals all throughout the year.

Better Business Bureau Consumer Tips (find it on the ipl2)

The Better Business Bureau offers plenty of tips on how to shop online safely. They offer suggestions on how to avoid scams, lists of reliable sites, and ratings on specific businesses to help you make better choices. There are a lot of useful links and articles to help you stay safe while shopping all year long.

NEW! Shopping Tips and Tricks

This blog is updated regularly and is focused on helping you find the best deals. There are regular pages of links to places you can find coupons or ads, information about freebies, and other sites you might find useful. Plus, the author posts about special promotions as she finds them.

National Retail Federation (find it on the ipl2)

This site gives you all the news you could want about past and present shopping trends around the holiday season. Get statistics, articles, and information about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It will help you check out what’s big this year or look at what happened last year at this time.

In the News: World Pneumonia Day


Pneumonia X-Ray by Encephalon at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

Pneumonia X-Ray by Encephalon at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons

World Pneumonia Day is held on November 12 every year to bring attention to the world’s leading killer of children under age 5, and to encourage governmental action to prevent and treat the disease around the globe. Key messages of World Pneumonia Day 2013 include: Pneumonia takes an immense human toll; the Developing World is the worst affected; Proven interventions exist and must be made available to the vulnerable; and Innovation is crucial. Pneumonia is an infection of the lungs that can be caused by a variety of factors, including bacteria, viruses, parasites, fungi and chemical and physical irritants. Pneumonia is most common in Winter months and anyone can get it, although it most often attacks young children, people over the age of 65, and those with compromised respiratory or immune systems. Preventative strategies and treatments are available and several organizations are involved in implementing and tracking those interventions all over the world.

Pneumonia Fast Facts

Virtual Medical Centre: Pneumonia NEW!

The Virtual Medical Centre provides a Pneumonia Fact Sheet with definitions, statistics, risk factors, treatments, research resources and more.

Pneumonia & Children

World Pneumonia Day NEW!

The United Nations has recognized November 12th as World Pneumonia Day since 2009.  This year the theme for Pneumonia Day commemorations is “Innovation”. On November 12th, medical professionals and advocates call upon the governments of the world to invest in innovation for the prevention and treatment of the world’s number one killer of young children.

World Pneumonia Day Places Emphasis on the Biggest Killer of Children (find on ipl2)

“We can’t have the reductions in child mortality that we envisage without a concentrated, direct attack on the biggest enemy that children face,” said Mickey Chopra, Chief of Health of United Nations Children’s Fund in November, 2012.

Pneumonia & the Elderly

Pneumonia – University of Maryland NEW!

For the elderly population in the United States, Pneumonia is a serious concern. It is the most common hospital-acquired infection for seniors, and is one of the most prevalent nursing home-acquired illnesses. The University of Maryland provides excellent information on the causes, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the disease in the elderly and other populations. Images and charts make this medical information easier to understand.

What are the Risks of Pneumonia in the Elderly? (find on ipl2)

The elderly are vulnerable to Pneumonia because they often have weakened immune systems and pre-existing health conditions that are worsened by Pneumonia. Common treatments are often not effective for older patients for a variety of reasons. Wisegeek discusses some of the challenges involving older patients and Pneumonia.

Symptoms & Treatment

Pneumonia – MedlinePlus (find on ipl2)

High fever, shaking chills, unproductive cough, shortness of breath– all are possible symptoms of Pneumonia. MedlinePlus, an excellent online health resource, provides plenty of information on the symptoms and treatment of Pneumonia, which is also called Bronchopneumonia.

Pneumonia – Treatment & Drugs (find on ipl2)

Antibiotics, anti-viral medications and vaccinations for children are possible responsive or preventative treatments for Pneumonia. As explained by the Mayo Clinic, treatment for Pneumonia depends largely on its type and severity.

Around the World

World Health Organization – Pneumonia (find on the ipl2)

Pneumonia affects people all across the globe, but it is most prevalent in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. The World Health Organization fact sheets provide information about the specific causes of Pneumonia and discusses how to prevent and treat the disease with simple remedies and care.

Pneumonia – The Acute Respiratory Infections Atlas NEW!

The Acute Respiratory Infections Atlas, sponsored by the World Lung Foundation (WLF), provides maps and other information about Pneumonia around the world. Pneumonia, according the WLF, is a disease of poverty.

In the United States

American Lung Association (find on the ipl2)

The American Lung Association discusses the causes, types, treatments and costs of Pneumonia in the United States. It also provides statistics about Pneumonia in the U.S. regarding age, gender and race.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (find on ipl2)

The CDC, a participant and advocacy organization in World Pneumonia Day, reports that “In 2009, 1.1 million people in the United States were hospitalized with pneumonia and more than 50,000 people died from the disease.” The CDC also provides other information as well, including facts on the prevention of the disease through vaccination and good hygiene practices.

Strategies & Progress

What We Do – Pneumonia Strategy Overview – Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (find on the ipl2)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is participating in efforts to prevent and treat Pneumonia around the world. The foundation’s “top priority is to promote full-scale delivery of currently available…vaccines and support the development of new vaccines” and to improve access to treatments for those at risk.

Pneumonia Progress Report – IVAC NEW!

The International Vaccine Access Center from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health provides data about the progress the world is making in preventing and treating Pneumonia in the 15 countries with the most child Pneumonia Deaths. Their findings? “Even in the face of significant progress, pneumonia remains the biggest threat to children’s lives, and disproportionately affects the poorest children in the world.”

In the news: 2013 – The Year of Solar Flare


The sun erupted with an X1.7 class solar flare on May 12th, 2013. This is a blend of two images of the flare from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. One image shows the light in the 171-angstrom wavelength and the other show the 131 angstroms.

Are science fiction literature authors correct when they write about solar flares causing Earth’s communications to fail and causing catastrophes worldwide or is this simply a convenient plot device? The year 2013 has seen the most solar flares since 2003 because the Sun’s magnetic field cycle is reversing polarization, as it does every 11 years. This reversal causes larger and more frequent solar flares, which explains why this year has seen a large number of these impressive solar weather occurrences in many years.  National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) officials say “the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013” (NASA News, 2013, found below).

Early in October the Earth was treated to a wonderful display of Northern Lights, illuminating the sky with brilliant dancing colors throughout the Northern United States and Canada. A solar flare directed at the Earth sent a larger than average stream of magnetized radiation at the Earth, which reacted with the Earth’s own gravity and magnetic field, creating Northern Lights. This particular flare was a class M, which was not strong enough to disrupt any satellites or space stations orbiting the Earth but is still considered impressive by NASA’s standards.

The question remains: how will these solar flares affect technology and are they dangerous to the Earth? Below are some informative links explaining what solar flares are, how they affect technology, and how they are studied.

What are solar flares and why are they important:

Solar Flare Theory Educational Web Pages (find it on the ipl2)

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in the Heliophysics Science Division offers a detailed look at solar flares, explaining what a solar flare is, why it’s important to study solar flares, and what impact solar flares have. Additionally, this site reviews current research projects in the field of solar flares, such as the RHESSI Spacecraft.

NASA News (find it on the ipl2)

On June 8th, 2013, NASA announced that a class M solar flare had occurred on June 7th. NASA explained effects such as moderate radio blackout are common with class M solar flares. NASA officials also stated that increased solar weather activities, like flares, were likely to occur more frequently in 2013, as the magnetic field was likely to reach “solar maximum.” The United States Space Weather Prediction Center with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association predicts that the solar flare activities are likely to increase late in 2013.

The Sun Also Flips: 11-Year Solar Cycle Wimpy, but Peaking (New!)

University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Terry Devitt provides an in depth explanation of the solar flare and of solar maxes, explaining that the Sun’s magnetic field reverses direction every 11 years, causing sunspots, solar flares, auroras, and geomagnetic storms.  Devitt also discusses the effects of superflares and their potential global threat to the Earth.

The not-so Northern Lights: Solar Flare Slams into Earth to Display Majestic Aurora as Far South as Kansas, Maine and Donegal (New!)

The Daily Mail Online explains how a powerful solar flare brought the Northern Lights as far south as Kansas, Main, and Donegal (a town in Ireland). The site explains the phenomena and includes many lovely photos from Paul Cyr illustrating an Amish family experiencing the Lights for the first time. The Daily explains what a solar flare is, why it occurs, and that in December of 2013 this solar flare cycle will reach its peak, undoubtedly creating more Northern Lights.

How do they affect technology on the Earth:

The Effects of Solar Flares on Technology (New!)

eHow explains the Effects of Solar Flares on Technology in a manner that is clear and easy to understand. eHow explains the Sun’s 11 year magnetic energy cycle and its effect on the rate of solar flare as it changes.  The site additionally outlines the effect on the power grids, GPS technology, and mobile devices.

Could an Extremely Powerful Solar Flare Destroy all the Electronics on Earth? (find it on the ipl2)

In Jonathan Strickland’s article with, he explains the nature of the sun, solar flares, and the potential for damage for our planet when a solar flare happens. Strickland explains that the majority of flares are absorbed in our atmosphere, creating Northern Lights and leaving the majority of people unharmed, but for people in space or at high altitudes skin cancer or irritation is a risk depending of the flare’s classification; additionally Strickland explains the vulnerability of satellites and electronics. The last super-storm from the Sun happened in 1859, when a flare so powerful occurred that Cubans saw the Northern Light. Strickland explains that if a similar flare happened today, it would take months to repair the damage.

Solar Flare Warning Issued by NASA (New!)

On August 21st NASA issued a Solar Flare Warning as a storm hurtled toward the Earth at 3 million mph, interrupting some satellites used for GPSs and airline communications. The article from Inquisitor explains that 3 million mph is an average speed for solar storms. Additionally the Northern Lights is an extraordinary side effect of the these storms.  When the solar radiation from the the flare hits the Earth’s magnetic field, the radiation breaks up in the atmosphere creating the Northern Lights in the sky, which are brightest at the poles of the Earth where the magnetic field is the strongest.

Solar Effects (find it on the ipl2)

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Space Weather Predictions Centers (SWPC) offers detailed descriptions of solar effects, including solar cycles, solar-terrestrial effects (the solar weather’s effects on earth), and a look at SWPC’s other solar weather operations. The table provided on this site is particularly helpful in laying out the specific effects that solar weather has on the Earth.

How do we study the sun:

Scientists have High Hopes for Japan’s Solar-B Mission Which has been Launched from the Uchinoura Space Port (find it on the ipl2)

Here the BBC’s Jonathan Amos discusses Japan’s new mission to study solar explosions. In September of 2006, Japan sent the spacecraft Solar-B into space carrying a probe, which will find out more about the Sun’s magnetic fields that cause solar flares when their 11-year cycle changes, flinging radiation into space. Amos explains that the probe will act as magnet to study the sun, giving scientists the hope that with finer detail they will be able to predict solar flares more accurate and avoid disaster in the future.

The Classification of X-ray Solar Flares or “Solar Flare Alphabet Soup” (find it on the ipl2) gives a unique look into the science of classifying solar flares. By analyzing strength of wattage, or the measurement of light admitted from the Sun, in a measurement called an Angstrom, scientists are able to determine the classifications; for example 10^-5.5 watts measures up to a class M solar event.  The site then explains how class X could lead to lasting radio blackout and radiation, class M would cause radiation in the Earth’s magnetic field and radio blackouts around the pole, and class C are unnoticed by the public.

Strongest Solar Flare in Months Unleashed by Sun (find it on the ipl2)

NBC’s Denise Chow offers a clear explanation of the class system for solar flares in a report of the event on October 9th, 2013, when at 9:48pm EDT one of the strongest solar flare in two months occurred. Chow illustrates the role of Earth’s magnetic field and how the flare could disrupt communications on Earth.

Our Sun (New!)

This children’s site illustrates the fundamentals of solar astronomy, highlighting key points like x-ray classification of solar flares, convection, thermonuclear fusion, and sun spots and winds. This site is particularly helpful because it offers HD video from NASA and the Kids Know It Network.

NASA Canyon of Fire on the Sun (find it on the ipl2)

Nasa’s YouTube Channel offers look at an eruption of solar material that occurred in late September. The video illustrates how the Sun is actually made out of plasma, and as magnetic fields change cycles, eruptions, like solar flares, can happen. This video demonstrates that by analyzing the eruption at different wavelengths, as demonstrated by the multiple colors, scientists are able to study the magnetic field around the Sun.

The Link: Everything you need to know about the Shutdown and the Affordable Care Act


Flags at the Washington Monument in DC

From the recent 16 day shutdown of the federal government and the previous shutdown of 1995, to the launching of the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), to the management of programs such as Women, Infants & Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the decisions and initiatives of the U.S. Federal government have great influence on the daily lives of regular citizens.  For information on U.S federal government programs that impact the daily life of American citizens, take a look at the A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies.

A-Z Index of U.S. Government Departments and Agencies (find it on the ipl2)

The ipl2 has resources to explore if you would like more information about the recent and previous federal government shutdowns and how they affected people across the country.

66 questions and answers about the government shutdown (Find it on the ipl2)

This informative video and article from USA Today discusses what led to the recent government shutdown, how the conflict was perpetuated, and what the effects of the closure were on federal programs, the economy, citizens, and the country.

Remarks by the President on the Reopening of the Government (find it on the ipl2)

This is the complete transcript of President Barack Obama’s remarks on the signing of legislation to reopen the U.S. federal government on October 17th, 2013. He describes the financial and political costs of the recent shutdown and discusses the future.

The Clinton-Gingrich 1995 shutdown (find it on ipl2)

The U.S. government has shut down before. MSNBC takes viewers back in time with a newscast from 1995 on the government shutdown, with Tom Brokaw, Brian Williams and Robert Hager reporting.  This 4 minute video gives viewers an idea of the Republican and Democratic perspectives.

Affordable Care Act AKA Obamacare:
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, is a brand new federal program that impacts U.S. citizens across the nation. With the new website going live in October there have been a lot of questions about what this means for people in the United States. Check out the ipl2 resources below to find out how the Affordable Care Act affects you and your family and friends.

NEW! Health Insurance Basics

This useful page on the federal healthcare website provides many frequently asked questions concerning the Affordable Care Act and related issues such as exemptions and coverage. Each question gives a short answer and provides a link to a longer explanation.

NEW! US Health Policy Gateway: PPACA

This site is compiled by the Center for Health Policy & Inequalities Research, which is headed up by researchers at Duke University. The Affordable Care Act is broken down into sections, which provide explanations as well as links to other sites where information can be found.

Health Care Reform Pros and Cons (find it on the ipl2)

The ProCon website provides a section with a variety of statements and sources debating the major issues of the Affordable Care Act. Their goal is to provide a balanced perspective showing the pros and cons using quotes and information from both sides of the issue.

Kaiser Family Foundation ACA Consumer Resources (find it on the ipl2)

The Kaiser Family Foundation is a well-respected non-profit that has been providing healthcare information for over 50 years. This section of their site contains videos as well as FAQs, infographics, and other tools to try to make the Affordable Care Act understandable to everyone.

The U.S. federal government oversees many programs that are intended to support and improve the lives of U.S. citizens. Two of these programs are Women, Infants & Children (WIC) and Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP), which are designed to help meet the nutritional, health and housing needs of low-income families. Though you can get more information about WIC and SNAP resources from your state and local governments’ websites, here are some links to the national organizations.

Women Infants & Children (WIC) (find it on the ipl2)

Women Infants & Children (WIC) is a supplemental nutrition and education program that is funded through federal grants to states. It supports low-income mothers and their children through age five. This site describes the program and provides information on accessing individual state programs.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) United States Department of Agriculture (find it on the ipl2)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a government program that helps low income families in the U.S. pay for food based on the number of people who live in the household and the household income. The SNAP program has come under great scrutiny in recent months and was considered vulnerable during the shutdown.

For a comprehensive look at the U.S. federal government’s foundational documents as well as its roles and agencies, take a look at the United States Government Manual.

United States Government Manual (Find it in the ipl2)

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